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I’ve never been a big fan of Kevin Costner, although there are a few of his movies that I like, with THE UNTOUCHABLES ($30) being on that very short list. Costner’s acting has never set the world or me on fire, however his blandness actually works to this film’s advantage. As Eliot Ness, Costner’s blandness conveys the right level of earnestness, which keeps the character from seeming like a preachy do-gooder. THE UNTOUCHABLES is set in Chicago during the era of prohibition, with treasury agent Eliot Ness being assigned the unenviable task of stopping the crime wave being caused by the city’s number one bootlegger- Al Capone (Robert De Niro). Although he is working with the Chicago police department, Ness finds himself facing a no win scenario. Prohibition is unpopular with the majority of Chicago’s citizenry, plus both the police and the politicians are being paid to look the other way by the bootleggers. Tired of being made to look the fool, Ness hooks up with Jim Malone (Sean Connery), an honest beat cop whose years of experience provide Ness with the key strategy that will allow him to beat Capone at his own game. Director Brian De Palma beautifully stages all of the film’s blazing gun battles, with his homage to the "Odessa Steps" sequence from BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN being a visual standout. In addition to Connery and DeNiro’s excellent work, THE UNTOUCHABLES also features fine supporting performances from Charles Martin Smith, Andy Garcia, Billy Drago and Patricia Clarkson.

Paramount Home Entertainment has done a very nice job with their DVD release of THE UNTOUCHABLES. While the presentation does feature the 16:9 enhancement, I have to say that the transfer doesn’t have that hyper-realistic snap that one finds in new movies. The 2.35:1 image has a slightly diffuse appearance, which I would imagine is the result of filters being applied to the film’s original cinematography. Still, THE UNTOUCHABLES looks better on DVD than it ever did on Laserdisc, even if the picture doesn’t leap off the screen. Colors are fairly strong, with the warmer hues predominating and the flesh tones appearing quite natural. There are no signs of chromatic distortion, nor is there any smearing of the more intense hues. Blacks are accurately reproduced and the level of shadow detail is quite respectable. The film element used for the transfer displays very few blemishes and there was little evidence of grain during the presentation. Digital compression artifacts rarely make their presence known on this dual layer DVD.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack applied to THE UNTOUCHABLES is very good, but not outstanding. This Dolby Digital track would appear to be a straightforward translation of the 1987 Dolby Surround stems, instead of a complete remix of the original sound elements. The mix seems a little dated, since the surround channels do not take advantage of the discrete encoding. Most of the directional activity is relegated to the forward soundstage, with the front stereo image being used rather effectively. Additionally, the dialogue is always clean and fully intelligible. There is a decent bottom end to the track, which reinforces the gunfire and explosions. I am particularly fond of Ennio Morricone’s score for THE UNTOUCHABLES, which sounds pretty good in this mix. English and French Dolby Surround soundtracks are also encoded onto the DVD, as are English subtitles. The basic interactive menus provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a theatrical trailer.

As a DVD, THE UNTOUCHABLES won’t blow anyone’s socks off; however, the presentation of this late eighties film is very solid. Diehard fans will want to pick up the DVD without question; casual viewers may want to take a look before committing.


The Untouchables



DVD reviews are Copyright © 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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